Xenosaga The Animation

Xenosaga The AnimationType: TV Series
Episode Count: 12
Genre: Sci-Fi
Vintage: 2005

Version reviewed: Japanese Subtitled
Date of Review: 28 Sep 2009

Grade: C

A fair adaptation of the first installment of the video game trilogy.

Plot Summary
The starship Woglinde is transporting a Zohar Emulator which is a replica of an ancient relic that possesses strange and unknown powers. On this same ship resides Shion Uzuki, who is developing an android weapon known as KOS-MOS. Suddenly, the ship is attacked by multidimensional creatures called Gnosis who are after the Zohar Emulator, resulting in KOS-MOS awakening to carry out its orders to protect Shion. This marks the beginning of a conflict which will decide the fate of the universe.

The Review
Xenosaga The Animation was a tricky series for me. I watched it after having completed the excellent video game trilogy, so my expectations were perhaps set too high, though still somewhat guarded. This may be a case where those who have not played the game will get more out of the series than those who have, simply because the games themselves are very much a theatrical experience as much as a video game.

The story in this series stays fairly faithful to the Xenosaga Episode I game, though some significant changes were made to the plot, and it also references events that take place in Episode II and Episode III of the game. On its own, that’s not really a problem. Adaptations often take liberties with the source to make them work in the new medium. My issues with Xenosaga The Animation came from other aspects of its production.

Most significantly, pacing is what works against Xenosaga The Animation from the very start. The Episode I game is between fifty and eighty hours in length (depending on how many sidequests you undertake), which includes many hours of its own cutscenes. In the game, the plot is advanced with both these cutscenes and the gameplay itself. A twelve episode television series has only five hours to accomplish the same thing. This results in a very rushed telling with very little time for any character development or fully explained plotlines. I knew the characters and story already from the games, but to someone unfamilar with Xenosaga, I’m not sure how it would affect their understanding of each character and their motivations or being able to follow the story.

There is also the underwhelming soundtrack. The Episode I game has a sweeping orchestral score with plenty of themes which could have been used for the anime, but instead they went for a completely new score which sounds disappointingly generic, given the epic scope of the source material. This was a letdown for me. The character designs were also a little awkward for me. They’re not a drastic deviation from the originals, but they are far less detailed.

What I did enjoy about the anime series was that by watching it in Japanese, I got to hear the original Japanese voices from the game for the characters. Sadly, English fans are denied such continuity, as the English cast for Xenosaga The Animation is entirely different from the cast of Xenosaga Episode I.

Xenosaga The Animation is a decent digest version of the first video game in the trilogy, but suffers from being otherwise a very generic sci-fi series. Perhaps my impressions of it would have been more favorable had I watched this series before playing the games, but I will never know. It’s enjoyable, but doesn’t compare to the video game from which it is derived. That said, it’s still worth a look, as it’s far from “bad”. There are moments when the series does rise above being totally average, but if you’re looking for an epic space opera, I’d recommend playing the Xenosaga trilogy of games instead. It’ll take you much longer to get through, but is far more rewarding.

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